Tom Cruise, Mission Impossible

Tom Cruise says he was ‘not close’ to ever playing Iron Man

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Apr 26, 2018, 5:11 PM EDT

Although he’s played a ton of big-screen badasses over the years, from Top Gun’s Maverick to Mission: Impossible’s Ethan Hunt to Jack Reacher’s, well, Jack Reacher, Tom Cruise has never really stepped into a true superhero’s role. 

And, despite a lingering rumor to the contrary, his almost-casting in Jon Favreau’s 2008 film Iron Man — the film that introduced us to the now-inseparable pairing of Robert Downey Jr. with Marvel’s Tony Stark and launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe — is pretty much just that: an overblown rumor. 

At least that’s how Cruise pitches it. Speaking with recently to promote his upcoming turn in this summer’s Mission: Impossible — Fallout, Cruise said he never really came near a casting deal to join J.A.R.V.I.S. and Pepper Potts in saving the world, and that he really can’t imagine anyone other than Downey stepping into Stark's iconic red exo-suit.

Taking on the role of Tony Stark was "not close," Cruise flatly said. "Not close, and I love Robert Downey Jr. I can't imagine anyone else in that role, and I think it's perfect for him.”

If that sounds emphatic, it’s not that Cruise is slamming the door on finding a superhero of his own to play. The actor, who’s done anything but take his foot off the gas with recent, action-heavy roles in films like Reacher and M:I — Fallout, said it’s really just a matter of finding the right fit.

“I don't rule anything out," he explained. "It's, 'What's the story? Does it interest me? Do I feel this is where the audience would like to see me in? What can I learn?' And 'What can I contribute?' That's how I choose my movies.”

Cruise is certainly game for the physical challenge, as anyone who’s watched his famously painful M:I — Fallout stunt crash ("That hurt,” confessed Cruise) can attest. The daredevil star broke his ankle during the August 2017 mishap, which halted production on the movie while he recuperated. It didn't, however, deter him from hopping in an airplane months later to film a high-altitude Fallout jump sequence that sent him hurtling toward Earth more than 100 times. 

At least if Cruise ever does don a comic book superhero’s metaphorical cape, we’ll know he’ll go full tilt. Until that day, we’re content watching him film similar heroics in roles (like Ethan Hunt’s) that, when it gets down to it, aren’t so different. Cruise puts it all on the line once more when Mission: Impossible — Fallout hits theaters on July 27.